The health of your digestive system has a direct impact on your overall health and if your digestive system is unhealthy, you’ll be at greater risk of experiencing ill health, whether it’s acute or chronic. While your digestive system is responsible for breaking down the foods you eat into smaller particles for absorption, it also contains a large reservoir of digestive bacteria which play an important role in maintaining not only the health of your digestive system, but of your whole body.
Friendly vs unfriendly digestive bacteria
When there is a healthy balance between friendly and unfriendly bacteria in your digestive system, your body is in harmony and you enjoy good health. When that balance is disturbed, unfriendly bacteria can take advantage of this disturbance and begin to flourish and outnumber your friendly bacteria. Disturbances to this fine balance can occur through poor food choices, stress, medications (particularly antibiotics), excessive alcohol consumption and food poisoning to name a few. Friendly digestive bacteria are directly involved in the digestion of your food, producing a number of vitamins, protecting you against infection, maintaining healthy mood and a strong, healthy immune system.
‘Biotic’ refers to a living organism; therefore probiotic literally means ‘for life’ and antibiotic literally means ‘against life’. Probiotics are considered friendly bacteria, benefitting your health and wellbeing by maintaining a healthy balanced digestive system. Probiotics help to re-establish colonies of friendly digestive bacteria and prevent the overgrowth of unfriendly digestive bacteria. Probiotics can prevent the overgrowth of unfriendly digestive bacteria in a number of ways by:
• competing for nutrients
• producing anti-toxins
• increasing immune surveillance
• increasing mucous production to protect the digestive tract
Probiotics also help to maintain the integrity of your digestive tract, reducing the risk of leaky gut and unwanted particles entering your bloodstream. Probiotics may also help to resolve intestinal inflammation and dampen allergic responses.
Around 80% of your immune system sits within your digestive tract, also known as gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). Probiotics interact with GALT to defend your body against unfriendly microbes including bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi by interacting directly with your immune system.
Probiotics vs antibiotics
Many people still believe that you can’t, or shouldn’t, take probiotics while taking antibiotics. This is not so in a lot of cases. There are a few probiotic strains that have shown resistance to a number of antibiotics, so they can continue to provide health benefits and maintain their therapeutic effect while taking a number of antibiotics:
• Bifidobacterium lactis (Bl-04) - resistant to around 50% of antibiotics. Provides immune support and plays a key role in the anti-inflammatory response, reducing digestive inflammation commonly seen in inflammatory bowel conditions. Bifidobacterium lactis (Bl-04) has been clinically shown to significantly reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI’s) in healthy, physically active adults.
• Lactobacillus acidophilus (La-14) - resistant to around 50% of antibiotics. Provides powerful anti-allergy support and prevents the overgrowth of unfriendly digestive bacteria, including viruses, and may reduce the build-up of oxalic acid which is implicated in joint pain and kidney stones.
• Lactobacillus plantarum (Lp-115) - resistant to around 77% of antibiotics. Provides immune support with anti-allergy and anti-infection properties, and helps to prevent the overgrowth of unfriendly digestive bacteria.
• Saccharomyces boulardii (SB) - resistant to 100% of antibiotics. Prevents the overgrowth of unfriendly digestive bacteria and yeasts, including Candida albicans by crowding them out, while encouraging friendly digestive bacteria to colonise and multiply in your digestive tract.
Taking probiotics such as these while taking antibiotics helps to maintain healthy digestive balance and offset some of the well-known side effects of antibiotics including diarrhoea and thrush infections.
Room-stable probiotics offer greater convenience
Room-stable probiotics have been processed using specialised stabilisation technology which allows for greater stability of certain probiotic strains (as described above), so that they can be stored at room temperature, alleviating the need for refrigeration. Room temperature stability is typically further enhanced through the use of nitrogen flushing (removal of oxygen) and a special seal on an amber bottle to further protect the probiotics from oxygen and sunlight.
Many strains of probiotics need to be refrigerated to maintain the quality of the probiotic and to remain stable. Room-stable probiotics on the other hand, offer greater convenience without the need for refrigeration, so you can carry them in your briefcase or handbag and even take them travelling with you on your holiday.
So, what makes a good room-stable probiotic?
1. Specialised stabilisation technology, nitrogen flushing, specialised seals and an amber bottle for maximum product stability.
2. Scientifically screened probiotic strains studied for their individual room-stable properties.
3. Resistance to a number of antibiotics allowing you to take probiotics in conjunction with certain antibiotics.
When to use probiotics
Probiotics can be beneficial in a number of health situations including:
• While taking antibiotics to re-establish friendly digestive bacteria and reduce the incidence of diarrhoea and thrush
• Urinary tract infections
• Vaginal yeast infections
• Food poisoning
• Gastroenteritis (inflammation and irritation)
• Poor immune function
• Recurrent illness
• Recovery after illness to boost immune function
• Bacterial and viral infections including colds and flu
• Eczema and dermatitis
• Digestive disturbances such as bloating and flatulence
• Take as a preventative while travelling
• Inflammatory bowel conditions
Written by Kay Bellingham
Kay Bellingham is a practicing Naturopath with over 14 years’ experience in natural medicine, with a special interest in herbs and nutrients for health and wellbeing.
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A product you may like to consider using is Herbs of Gold Product Probiotic SB
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